CPTC
The snowmobile oval racing season got off to a fast start in Beausejour, Manitoba. Photo by Darryl Gershman.

The Oval Sprint season got off to a fast start in Beausejour, Manitoba, December 7-8, and some familiar names were at the top of the charts when the snow dust settled on the flat and fast oval, despite some of the rules changes in the sport.

The new Pro Champ class – unveiled for this 2019-20 season as a lower-cost version of the regular Champ 440 class, with fewer allowed engine mods and limited traction options – got off to a very impressive start, with 11 entries in the class and top recorded speeds in heats and the final between 97 and 103 mph!

The much-anticipated Formula III class – which is based on a stock chassis and will become the World Championship class in 2021 – was notably smaller on entries, but the sleds that were there impressed, also topping the 100 mph mark at Beausejour.

The Beausejour track was reportedly a bit thin on ice, thanks to the whims of Mother Nature, but the track held up well and race organizers did a good job of adjusting to conditions – including pushing out turns three and four on Sunday for later races.

Pro Champ 440

Two-time defending World Champion Blaine Stephenson of Hutchinson, Minnesota, powered his new Polaris-powered Pro Champ 440 sled to victory in the big Sunday final – which he preceded by winning all three of his heat races in the class on the same day.

                Stephenson, racing a No. 102 Polaris-powered sled with a Wahl chassis, was nailing his holeshots all day and did again in the final. That allowed him to hug the inside line throughout the final and open a bit of a gap on the field en route to the checkered flag.

                Local racer Travis MacDonald from Gonor, Manitoba, finished second on his MPH Racing Ski-Doo, followed by the Polaris-based mods of Tom Olson and Nick Van Strydonk.

                In the same class on Saturday, Stephenson held off a hard charge by Gunnar Sterne – the two-time defending points champ in the sport’s top class – on the track, but he wasn’t able to evade the scale after the race. Stephenson came in a couple of pounds under the minimum weight in the post-race weigh-in and was disqualified. That meant Sterne got the trophy, with MacDonald second, Van Strydonk third and Olson fourth.

                Monday after the races, we spoke briefly with Stephenson, and he credited his crew for giving him great holeshots all weekend. He said he was most pleased, though, by the trend he spotted in the new Pro Champ 440 class, which on Sunday had 11 entries thanks to Pro Lite racers being able to easily “bump-up” into the class.

“What I was most happy about was the drive for the guys who race Pro-Lite to run with the guys that run the Pro Champ this year,” Stephenson said, referring specifically to young racers like Griffin Lapak and Stephen Manke who are gaining valuable experience from the effort. “There is talk that there is going to be a lot of them [that bump up into the Pro Champ 440 World Championship] at Eagle River, where we could have 25 entries. That’s be great! We’ll see what it brings, but it makes you hopeful for a good year as far as a good turnout for drivers.”

Formula III

The brand new Formula III class – which features current, typically snocross-focused race sleds that are lowered to the ice for oval racing – got off to a mediocre start in terms of driver entries. Whether it was the fault of  limited early-season test time or the fact that it doesn’t become the world championship class until next winter, there were only three Formula III sleds that took to the track on Beausejour.

That said, the sleds that were there looked really cool in their lowered form and put up very impressive speeds on Beausejour’s long straights.

The fastest was driven by West Chicago, Illinois-based Gunnar Sterne. His Ski-Doo was clocked at 101 mph in both of Sunday’s heat races, and not surprisingly he won those races as well as the final. In the final, Tom Olson finished second, with Nick Van Strydonk third.

 Speaking of his Formula III sled, Sterne told Snow Goer on Monday, “We didn’t get the sled until late October. We had  started acquiring parts a little bit beforehad to get a head start, but a lot of the work was in the past month.” He said former World Champ and renowned chassis builder Mike Houle worked on a lot of the suspension parts, some of which were similar to what the team uses on their Champ sled.

As far as driving the sled, Sterne said his first time in the saddle was up in Beausejour. He said the handling of the Formula III class sled was actually fairly impressive, given its higher center of gravity. He said dialing in holeshots and handling for different tracks might be a learning process at first, but overall it was an impressive race machine.

“There’s lots of power – you can definitely feel the torque in your arms coming out of the turns,” Sterne said. “It’s fun to ride, and pretty fast.”  

The Sunday results were a bit of a flip from Saturday, when Sterne won the first Formula III heat race but then Olson – from Greenbush, Minnesota – won the second heat race and the final, followed by Sterne and then Van Strydonk each time.

Champ 440

The “old” Champ 440 class – which until this year had been the World Championship class since 1998 – was also run on Saturday at Beausejour. As opposed to Pro Champ, Champ allows more engine mods, exotic materials in the traction package and specific traction control devices.

In that class, Sterne was the star – winning all three times his Houle-chassis/Ski-Doo powered mod hit the track. Stephenson was second each time with Andrew Darraugh – racing one of Glen Hart’s old sleds – third in the final.

Travis MacDonald and Nick Van Strydonk also ran the class in heat races on Saturday, but they were using their Pro Champ 440 race sleds, so it was primarily test time for them and neither ran the final in the class.

There was a lot of other racing going on all weekend at Beausejour – with a broad assortment of vintage, juniors, women’s and formula classes as well as a touch of ATV and dirt bikes on the ice. In throwback to the old Snow Week days, we offer the “race wire” from the event below, as posted on the CPTC website.  

SATURDAY

RELIC MOD/SS SINGLE FC/FA: 1. Kieran Loewen (Yam); 2. Don Kjear (Cat); 3. Ray Gosselin (Yam).

SS 340 FA/340LC/440 FAN: 1. Leigh Baxter (Merc); 2. Jesse Cypher (Deere); 3. Scot McHarg (Yam).

SUPER MOD 300: 1. Cody Wojcik (Pol); 2. Vic Mazur (Pol); 3. Norm Chura (Pol)

IFS 340X/PRO STOCK 440: 1. Norm Chura (Pol); 2. Matt Szalai (Moto-Ski); 3. Tyson Bzdell (Moto-Ski).

SUPER STOCK 250/300/340 FAN: 1. Sheldon Carlson (Merc); 2. Joe Bruce (Pol); 3. Doug Beddall (Yam).

PM 340/SM 340/SS 440: 1. Norm Chura (Pol); 2. Kirby Kalthoff (Yam); 3. Jesse Cypher (Deere).

CHAMP 440: 1. Gunnar Sterne (Doo); 2. Blaine Stephenson (Pol); 3. Andrew Darraugh (Doo).

FORMULA III: 1. Tom Olson (Pol); 2. Gunnar Sterne (Doo); 3. Nick VanStrydonk (Pol).

PRO LITE: 1. Dylan Anagnoustopolous (N/A); 2. Jaryd Sackvie (Doo); 3. Griffin Lepak (Cat).

IFS 440X: 1. Matt Szalai (Moto-Ski); 2. Tyler Obie (Doo); 3. Tyson Bzdell (Moto-Ski):

PRO CHAMP 440: 1. Gunnar Sterne (Doo); 2. Travis MacDonald (Doo); 3. Nick VanStrydonk (Pol);

SUNDAY

JUNIOR I F500 (10-13): 1. Miranda Peterson (N/A); 2. Dylan Fox (Pol).

RELIC MOD/SS SINGLE FC/FA: 1. Colin Demianyk (Doo); 2. Kieran Loewen (Yam); 3. Don Kjear (Cat).

FA/340 LC/440 FAN: 1. Jesse Cypher (Deere); 2. Leigh Baxer (Merc); 3. Brice Olson (Cat).

JUNIOR I SPRINT 380 (12-14): 1. Jazalyn Rathke (Doo); 2. Lawrence Eeg (Premier); 3. Hunter Johnson (N/A).

ICE BIKE OPEN: 1. Ryan Rondeau (Kaw); 2. Kal Dietz (Kaw); 3. Tim Fawcett (Yam).

SUPER MOD 300: 1. Vic Mazur (Pol); 2. Cody Wojcik (Pol); 3. Norm Chura (Pol).

JUNIOR II STOCK 380 (13-17): 1. Brett Borchardt (Pol); 2. Jazalyn Rathke (Pol); 3. Miranda Peterson (N/A).

IFS 340X/PRO STOCK 440: 1. Norm Chura (Pol); 2. Matt Szalai (Moto-Ski); 3. Tyson Bzdell (Moto-Ski).

SPORT FORMULA 500: 1. Colton Graber (Pol); 2. Dalton Fredrickson (Cat); 3. Austin Graber (Pol).

JUNIOR II F500 (14-17): 1. Ashten Christensen (Pol); 2. Honna Westlund (Pol); 3. Hunter Van Ryen (Pol).

ATV OPEN: 1. Mark Sexton (Can-Am); 2. Stephan Wiebe (Can-Am); 3.  Peter Friesen (Yam).

SS 250/300/340 FAN: 1. Sheldon Carlson (Merc); 2. Johnathon Hall (Pol); 3. Joe Bruce (Pol).

FORMULA III: 1. Gunnar Sterne (Doo); 2. Tom Olson (Pol); 3. Nick VanStrydonk (Pol).

SPORTSMAN 600: 1. DJ Saluk (Pol); 2. Brett Keilback (Pol); 3. Quinn Wojcik (Pol).

PRO FORMULA 500: 1. Dalton Fredrickson (Cat); 2. Brian Healey (Pol); 3. Kendra Westlund (Pol).

WOMEN’S FORMULA 500: 1. Kendra Westlund (Pol); 2. Madison Phillips (Pol); 3. Honna Westlund (Pol).

JUNIOR I STOCK 380 (10-12): 1. Dylan Fox (Pol); 2. Hunter Johnson (Doo).

JUNIOR II SPRINT 380 (14-17): 1. Ashten Christensen (N/A); 2. Hunter Van Ryen (Pol); 3. Jazalyn Rathke (Doo).

IFS 440X: 1. Matt Szalai (Moto-Ski); 2. Tyler Obie (Doo); 3. Tyson Bzdell (Moto-Ski).

PM 340/SM 340/SS 440: 1, Norm Chura (Pol); 2. Kirby Kalthoff (Yam); 3. Dillon Brandner (Yam).

Pro Champ 440: 1. Blaine Stephenson (Pol); 2. Travis MacDonald (Doo); 3. Tom Olson (Pol); 4. Nick Van Strydonk (Pol); 5. Gunnar Sterne (Doo); 6. Nick LaGoy (Cat); 7. Griffin Lepak (Cat); 8. Stephen Manke (Doo).      

Editor’s Note: Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.

    

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